Other Rad Voices

Beryl Markham, Aviatrix, Adventurer, Author of West with the Night

Beryl Markham (October 26, 1902 – August 3, 1986) is perhaps best remembered as a pioneering aviatrix, becoming the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic nonstop from Britain to North America. She was also a racehorse trainer and had torrid love affairs and tepid marriages, all of which she recounted in her famed  1942 memoir, West with the Night.

Born Beryl Clutterbuck, she seemed at first destined to lead the kind of life described in old English novels – an uneventful childhood in a grand country house; schooling in literature, language, and sewing by a Jane Eyre-like governess; attending swish parties and tea dances until the day a handsome man from a fine family proposes, and that would be that. Then, having babies, supervising the staff, gardening, and fox hunting for the rest of her life.

But Fate had other ideas. Beryl spent her childhood in Kenya, and grew up to breed champion racehorses and pilot planes. Encouraged by Antoine de Saint Exupery, she wrote what would become a classic memoir about Africa, West with the Night. This book, Ernest Hemingway opined, was so good it made him feel ashamed because “she can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers.” As is well known, Hemingway was rarely complimentary towards fellow writers. Read More→


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Isabelle Eberhardt, Fearless Nomad and Seeker

Isabelle Eberhardt (February 17, 1877 – October 21, 1904) was a Swiss-born traveler and writer. From an early age she dreamed of escaping to North Africa, a dream that was nourished by the exotic fantasies of desert life that were popular at the time, and in her early twenties, she left Europe to make Algeria her home.

Her exploration of the deserts and cities of the Mahgreb, usually disguised as a man, has become legendary. She was a prolific writer, but much of her work — including travelogues, diaries, and short stories — was only published after her death in a freak accident at the age of twenty-seven. Read More→


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Margaret C. Anderson, Founder of The Little Review

Margaret C. Anderson (November 24, 1886 – October 18, 1973) was a daring, headstrong writer, editor, and founder of the modernist literary magazine, The Little Review. This modernist journal, published from 1914 to 1929, was dedicated to the best writing and art of the early twentieth century. 

Margaret was later known as one of “The Women of the Rope,” a group of writers and artists who studied with the famous Russian mystic Gurdjieff, part of a group seeking transformation and possible enlightenment.

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Imagining Helen: The Life of Translator Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter

I first heard about Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter (1876 – 1963) when I fell in love with her grandson, a visiting American graduate student at my university in New Zealand. I knew of the great German novelist Thomas Mann but had not read his novels, and certainly had never wondered about how they came to appear in English.

“My grandmother was Mann’s translator,” my new boyfriend informed me. I was mildly impressed. He told me a little about her: how forbiddingly intellectual she was, how un-grandmotherly.

His mother, Patricia, who soon became my mother-in-law, always spoke with mixed awe and resentment of her illustrious mother, though adoringly of her illustrious father, a renowned paleographer. Read More→


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10 Fascinating Facts about Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe (1819 – 1910) was an American poet, essayist, editor, speaker, and activist extraordinaire, especially in the causes of abolition, suffrage, and the advancement of women everywhere. 

Although her iconic “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is ubiquitous in patriotic, inspirational, and popular settings, its author is far less known. Let’s look at 10 fascinating facts about the woman behind the verses. 

Howe was born on Bond Street and Broadway in New York City to an affluent, Calvinist family; when she was five, her mother died in childbirth. She was educated in a home with its own library and art gallery and well-propertied for a secure future. Her heroic but controlling husband stymied her spirit and mishandled her land holdings. Read More→


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